Quail in the Classroom
About the Program
Northern Bobwhite Quail (Colinus virginianus) are a native North American ground bird that historically ranged across much of the Central and Eastern United States. The species, which thrived when forests were cleared and mixed-use agriculture characterized the Colonial landscape, has suffered dramatic declines in the past century as grassland habitat has been lost to development and industrial agriculture. Bobwhite Quail have consistently been near the top of recent lists of bird species in declined, including the National Audubon Society’s 20 Common Birds in Decline report, that noted the species’ population has plummeted more than 80 percent since 1967. While Long Island is considered to be at the northern edge of their remaining range, they once thrived here when potato farms and other agriculture uses dominated the island. They have not fared well in the dense development that has spread across our region, and few, if any, wild quail populations remain on the island.
Since 2009, Seatuck has worked with Long Island schools to raise and release Bobwhite Quail. The project (which replaces the rearing of duck and chicken eggs during the life cycle component of the grade school curriculum) focuses on conservation lessons and the educational value in connecting students to a native species. It is not necessarily intended as an effort to restore quail to Long Island, but rather to help sustain populations in isolated pockets of suitable habitat. The birds from Seatuck’s Quail in the Classroom program are released at various parks and preserves on Long Island, often with the participation of students.
In 2019, Seatuck worked with 76 teachers from 37 different districts. More than 1200 quail chicks were raised and released at the Suffolk County Environmental Center, South Shore Nature Center and Town of Brookhaven Recycling Center!
Seatuck has been providing professional development opportunities for teachers for over a decade. This work focuses on helping teachers develop a deeper understanding of Long Island’s natural history and learning techniques for using the outdoors as an extension of the classroom and incorporating the natural world into daily lessons. Seatuck’s work with teachers includes both the annual year-long Greentree Foundation Teachers’ Ecology Workshop and custom, shorter trainings for teacher groups, grade levels, administrators, schools or districts.
In September 2019, in a widely reported article appearing in Science magazine, researchers documented a significant decline in the overall abundance of birds in North America. Studies showed a 29% reduction birds since 1970, totaling approximately 3 billion birds. Some bird groups – such as grassland birds – have declined even more precipitously, dropping by more than half.